Tuesday, 18 November 2008

The Post Party Sweet Spot

Here's a post I've had brewing in my head for a while now. I've never stopped trying to reconcile selling more stuff (my work) in a world of finite resources. I believe that even if climate change is not happening because of the way we use carbon fuels and behave like it's a disposable society (ironic that isn't it?) that it's our moral responsibility to take care of this planet in a way which shows future generations that we tried to hand over the best torch possible.

I believe one day in the vast future we will look back at planet Earth, maybe from distant solar systems and see it as the genesis of something beautiful. If it's in good shape it might be reminiscent of a garden of Eden. Of course the religous references will get some people's backs up, but I have my own system of belief that belongs to no one else because it's mine and I'm quite convinced that without some belief there would be an equal amount of problems. This doesn't make me any less of a hypocrite as I'm a human and all too fallible.

I think John Grant went a long way to reconciling the notions of making money (or value) and treating the planet as if it's resources are meagre instead of full. It's not and, our evolutionary (yes I think evolution makes sense) programming doesn't allow us to instinctively take care of relatively slow moving events. We'll only know if we've fucked up when we've fucked and by then it's too late. So change our lives and do one right thing. Be frugal.

I'll share something about John and I. We never really get it on in real life, and because I think he's a genius, a bit of a hero, and also a brilliant communicator when given centre stage, I don't want people to confuse that with kissing ass. John and I had the same girlfriend in the late nineties. Not at the same time. I after him, and truthfully I only realised it when I started reading his blog nearly ten years later. I've never been one to follow industry stars because it's only advertising and not nearly as important as saving someone's life with a defibrillator which is far more useful when push comes to shove - It is however what I love doing. This may or may not be the reason why John and I are not best mates, but I know deep down as do many others that his book The Green Marketing Manifesto is one of the most important books in our business if for instance, working on a tobacco account is something you would find offensive. Aren't rising sea levels and climate change affecting the poorest on this planet much more offensive than auto-exposure to lung cancer?

My hopes for a 'rewiring of our economies' which is something I've been talking about for quite a while was never strong. I know that everything changes and everything stays the same so I couldn't see how we could slow down our economies and population growth to take the time to find solutions for not choking on our own growth. I spent long days talking about it in the US with my political mentor and he finally came round to my way of thinking that we need 'managed population decline' to really find ways of keeping this incredible thing called life continuing for millenia before we jettison ourselves off this planet, find somewhere else and let it grow fallow for a long time while observing it from distant galaxies as the birth of something quite special.

And then along comes something I've felt in my gut for about 5 to 10 years that we are facing a massive financial implosion. Nothing brainy or clever but simply put the idea of making money out of losses (shorting on a stock market) seems to me as stupid as having a bookmakers where betting on losers is the point. It's dumb and we were hoodwinked by the financial markets into believing it was a valid financial mechanism. Unless of course you were the creatives on this remarkable piece of prescience that I loved so much and tried to bring your attention to back in March.

Anyway, we've hit the sweet spot. It looks like we've had a hell of a party, there's cake and booze everywhere but now it's time to clean up and we can build a better world because of it. Yes we can do marketing in new ways while managing decline and add value and creativity to peoples lives with big thoughts such as more ideas less stuff. Isn't that what the internet is? Isn't sharing our lives more important that acquisition of more stuff. Shouldn't we compare ourselves by what we do, how we act and what we believe in rather than the bullshit marketing methodology that has been outed for what it really is so very recently; fear marketing of "if you don't wash your hair with our shampoo, you wont be as pretty as the other succesful girls in the office" or in this case, baby straps? Yes it took mothers to rebel and say fuck you to shitty advertising. I love this business and I am very optimistic about the future. We've hit a remarkable sweet spot. A big problem that needs sorting out with slower economies, enter stage right a mini global depression, the tools to fix it, as social media is nothing short of a revolution, and the kind of leadership that only tips up once every eighty years or so that has the mandate to really change things. Yes we can. Oy!

Now it's over to the economists. Why don't you do something useful for once and rewire our economies based on what we have and not on what we want. Because as we now know, we want it all. Including redemption.

I'll tidy this post up later as even two years of blogging I still write in this crappy box and make a tonne of mistakes.


  1. Charles, good on you for laying it bare. Taking responsibility for your work and it's impact on the planet is something we all need to do more of. As a photographer I did one job for a cigarette multinational and was right royally fucked over. I didn't agree with smoking then and even less so now.

    Social media presents us with a chance to do things on much more personal and meaningful level, just as long as we don't screw it all up with greed. The future this time is truly in our hands, let's pass the torch on while we still have oil to burn.

  2. See, this is why I miss bending your ear in the Endurance. Now can you send this to all the economists to take note and maybe just maybe, they will see that there is an alternative answer. Nice one x

  3. Thanks Brian. This of courses diminishes my income in the short run and increases it in the long run. I'm OK about that.

  4. Great post, Charles. Been around this sort of thing for a long time too and working something up. More on that soon. Anyways, good stuff.

  5. Nice.

    We should be calling it social production rather than social media.

    It makes things clearer and more purposeful.

  6. Production.... no way... then you'd lose the joy of a word with such a rich latin root medium...collective, in the middle, between two extremes, a person who communicates between the dead and the living [which side of that dichotomy the audience and client of a TVC are on I would leave up to you], the layer between a blood vessel, the substance in which an organism lives or is cultured...[Charles is pretty cultured with media, agar or the internet], material used by an artist... yes... all these available in OED... to be replaced by a mechanistic word such as production, associated with factories and bloodless repetition.

  7. Nice words sir. Exactly why I became a service designer and not a salesman. Making services that are free or bundled into your main subscription that deliver way more value than you pay for is a rewarding business to be in.

    As for social media, yes the first step has been made but be benefits haven't truly been felt by the masses. That will come through awareness of context. I have a post coming on this very soon...

  8. it is great to hear the voice of reason seasoned with morality in this industry and world eaten by wanting more of everything. i wonder isn't it too late? didn't we all become a liquid mass (desperately trying to dfferentiate with various types of labels) deprived of morality and God...I hope not!

  9. Hey Charles...in a related post, would love to know what you think of this...

  10. Great post mate - links in with my whole 'move culture, not categories' philosophy - which is why adland needs to be more like the manufacturing industry than the communication one.

    Infiltrating and motivating society needs more than just ads, even if they have a part to play. It's all about perspectives and too many in adland still think it's the only thing worth focusing on.

    Fools. :)

  11. @Bevan


    Pro-duc-tion. Product: The result of a multiplication. Multiples. Value creation. Yeah?

    Did you not read Umair's post about User-generated context?


    At every touchpoint in your social 'media' contextual data is being created (at the very least).

    The consumptive paradigm cannot explain next-gen social production business models like Google.

    Service is just an interface.

  12. charles - i'm not sure if what i read just then was the 'tidy up later' version, but if it's not, fuck being 'refined' - this is great. and reads completely differently 'live' (as oppposed to RSS reader).

    and, you and i know that the economists are not going to do shit. even mr smith - the guy on the £10 took yeeeears to get his theories to be accepted into mass-society. and he invented the basic stuff. implementing morals and conscience is even harder.

    but don't stop hassling them. (that's my motto). some people have a role of a terrier - to just keep at them and at them - herd them into line. i have a feeling that, with posts like this, you are almost a terrier. chihuahua maybe.

  13. Thanks for all your comments everyone. It's always a risk with these types of posts to be seen as anti advertising but I think there's a really noble place for the art of persuasion and communication in building a better place while contributing to a wealth creation model that doesn't make wealth creation the centre or sole objective.

    It's going to be a touch ride in the next year or so but I think the soil will be richer from the ashes.

    Adam and Bevan; I think you guys agree on more than you disagree. Big picture guys c'mon!

  14. It's going to be a touch ride in the next year or so but I think the soil will be richer from the ashes.

    Golf Tee Times

  15. I came across that quote on Naked Capitalism in the comments Improvedliving. I like it a lot.

  16. Hi Charles,

    Maybe every blog community in every industry is seeking to find where they fit in a reworking of how they work in order to become part of the solution towards a sustainable world - Maybe its more acute in this industry because we are at the sharp end of the problem, or it could be just that it is full of lots of people who want to make a bit of a difference by the ideas that they have. Anyway it seems that the volume is being turned up (even though as you say John G has been talking about all of this for years.) The answer has to be not just in the products that clients sell but in the products that we sell to them. How do we start to hard wire this stuff into the services that we are flogging?

    PS - just posted some thoughts on the a new kind of agency that might be able to do this if you are interested...


  17. The economic solution your are looking for is call the GPI index. Or at least that is one solution.

    But screw waiting around for economists to change. The way political economics is structured is based on the zeitgeist of the people.

    That is OUR JOB! So in every brief and in every meeting, how can we use the tools and the clients we have to change culture for the better.

    Lets undo what the Mad Men started, lets turn consumerism on its head.


  18. I think you may have missed the point of the post Rob although I appreciate you reading one of my more controversial efforts

    I wrote: "Anyway, we've hit the sweet spot"

    This is the economic context for rewiring our economies. So while I appreciate you drawing my attention to a different type of index (though Bhutan has had a happiness index for all the years I've been in Asia) the point I was trying to convey is that the conditions were right. However I hadn't factored in the Wall Street economic hologram.

    I've yet to right a follow up post to this which is that essentially the economic crash hasn't happened. You mark my words on that. The worst is yet to come. Although as I wrote here it's a great opportunity too. I also believe that it will be a lot more bloody because we all sat back and let the Hyenas on Wall Street take our last opportunity to do it bloodlessly. Not so in the future!